The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2015, 95-143

The Role of the Rus’ and the Volga Bulgars in the Import of North-Iranian Dirhams to Europe in the Second Half of the 10th – Early 11th Centuries

R. K. Kovalev

The article discusses the nature of trade relations between Northern Iran and
Eastern Europe during the fi rst half of the 10th – early 11th centuries. In addition
to exploring these commercial ties, several observations are made regarding the
political history of Eastern Europe. The author considers both the patterns of the
deposition of North-Iranian dirhams found in Eastern and Northern Europe as
well as their chronology of import in the 10th – early 11th centuries. Beginning
with 963/64, great numbers of dirhams were regularly issued in Northern Iran and
this region was the only area of the Islamic world where these coins circulated.
Thus, the southern region of the Caspian Sea was the only source of these coins
and all the ones that were found in the North (“Northern lands”) of Europe could
only have come from Northern Iran. Interestingly, none of these dirhams were
available in the lands of Volga Bulgharia until ca. 980. The absence of those
coins in the middle Volga region up to 980 is testimony to the fact that Khazaria,
being an intermediary in the trade of Islamic silver, very successfully blocked the
transfer of these coins from the Caspian basin up to the collapse of the Khazar
state in the 960s under pressure of the Rus’. Between the 960s and ca. 980 it
was the Rus’ who came to block Volga Bulgharia from access to these coins. The
quite sudden end in the notable fl ow of Northern Iranian dirhams into the western
areas of Eastern Europe starting with ca. 980 and their concurrent appearance in
large volumes in the middle Volga region seems to bespeak the termination in the
direct access of the Rus’ to the Caspian Sea and their replacement by the Volga
Bulghars. Henceforth, beginning with ca. 980, the Rus’ had to travel to the middle
Volga to access Northern Iranian coins and Near Eastern goods, in general.

Keywords:
Circulation, hoard, dirham, Arab Caliphate, Northern Iran, Rus’, Volga Bulgaria, Khazaria
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